DANCING IN THE STREET

Curtis Robinson

Curtis Robinson – Guitar
Michael Logan – Piano
Leon Joyce – Drums
Chuck Webb – Bass
Larry Grey – Bass

With Dancing in the Street, Chicago guitarist Curtis Robinson, aka “The Doctor,” pays engaging homage to nine Motown hits. By focusing on the instrumentals, Robinson goes behind the popular appeal that the vocals provided to these tunes to the beauty of the core melody. In this, he also sheds light on the work of The Funk Brothers, the label’s studio band.

On the soulful, lilting Marvin Gaye classic “What’s Going On,” bassist Chuck Webb, with his evocative reverberations, and drummer Leon Joyce, with his galloping beats, lay down a turbulent ambience. Within this framework, Robinson reconstructs the song with heavy, resonant lines while pianist Michael Logan adds subtle and memorable embellishments. The two create a simultaneously dramatic and intimate atmosphere. Logan’s sweeping arpeggios are harmonically expansive, while Robinson’s serenading strings are intensely emotive.

Elsewhere, the DeBarge hit “All This Love” possesses a tango-style passion and a loose swing—the latter courtesy of Joyce and bassist Larry Grey. Robinson’s performance meanders far from the main theme, while remaining within its spirit as Logan provides an undercurrent of a crystalline cascade of notes. Robinson closes the track with his funky vamps.

Even though Robinson is a master of versatility having played with a wide variety of musicians, he remains a jazzman at heart. His intriguing medley of two Stevie Wonder compositions, “Sir Duke/I Wish,” showcases his elegant and crisp spontaneous phraseology and his earthy swagger. Over the band’s slow, simmering refrains, Robinson expands with unhurried grace and deep lyricism. Logan follows with dense blues-drenched chords, while Joyce ushers in the thunderous conclusion.

The album closes with a Robinson original that is a tribute to two of his stylistic influences—guitarists Wes Montgomery and Pat Martino. The Latin-flavored “Wes and Pat” opens with Logan’s exuberant pianism, Grey’s deep thumps and Joyce’s booming drums. Robinson’s uplifting solo, with its blistering tones, forms the core of this stirring piece.

Dancing in the Street is a delightful and charming work that successfully mixes R&B’s ardent energy with a boppish creativity. Hence, it is a disc that definitely has a wide appeal.

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